Alleged N1.4bn fraud: Court denies bail to Kogi NNPP candidate, others

0

By Ridwan Adekunle

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has refused the bail application of the Kogi State House of Assembly candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) for Ankpa II Constituency, Ismaila Atumeyi, and two others.

The trio was arraigned before the court on Monday by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 18 counts of alleged N1.4billion bank fraud.

The other two are a former employee of Union Bank, Abdulmalik Salau; and one Ngene Joshua.

They had pleaded not guilty at their arraignment and applied for bail through their counsel, Bolaji Ayorinde.

The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had opposed the application and instead asked the court to make an order for an accelerated hearing of the matter.

In his ruling on the application and counter-application for bail, Justice Tijjani Ringim upheld Oyedepo’s arguments that the defendants were a flight risk as the probability of them jumping bail is high.

The court noted that the magnitude of their offence is such that the defendants can interfere with the law enforcement procedure and run away.

The court also noted that extradition procedures from anywhere is such a cumbersome process.

“In all, I hold that the application for bail filed and argued by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Justice Ringim held.

He remanded the defendants in the Ikoyi Correctional facility and adjourned till January 24, 2023 for trial.

The defendants were alleged to have hacked into the system of the Union Bank and defrauded the institution of over N1.4billion.

The court heard that they carried out a “modification of data held in the network of the bank, leading to the fraudulent transfer of the total sum of N1,403,343,400 to the account of FAV OIL AND GAS LIMITED.”

The EFCC allegedly recovered N326million and $140,500 from the black Escalade Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) of one of the defendants during an operation at his hideout in Queens Estate, Gwarinpa.

Oyedepo told the court in a charge numbered FHC/L/651C/2022, that the defendants committed the alleged offences between August and October 2022 in Lagos.

He said they conspired to “directly conceal” the N1.4billion in the account of Fav Oil and Gas Limited, “which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity and you thereby committed an offence contrary to sections 18 (a), 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act.

The defendants were accused of laundering the sum in tranches of N100million, $480,000, N12.5million, N7million, N9million, N7m, N12m, N8m, $140,000 and N326,400,000.

Specifically, they were alleged to have acquired a N12.5m black Mercedes Benz C300, N7m BMW 3 Series, N9million Black Range Rover, N7m Toyota Hilux 2014 upgraded to 2021, N12m Black BMW SURXI 2016, a N8m White Toyota Hilux 2010 and a N10million White Toyota Hilux.

The court also heard that they allegedly directly transferred N80million to Frank Maya Intergrated Ventures, acquired a property known as No.8, Grace Crescent, EFAB Queens Estate, Gwarimpa, Abuja, concealed $140,000 and N326,400,000 in a Black Escalade SUV.